What really happened to Jason Newsted’s tracks on … And Justice For All?

JasonNewstedWhat really happened to Jason Newsted’s tracks on … And Justice For All?

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich accused of burying bass to make drums more prominent

By Jon Liebman
March 26, 2015

When Metallica suddenly found itself without a bass player in 1986 after the tragic loss of Cliff Burton, it was Jason Newsted who filled the void.  While replacing the highly revered Burton would have been a daunting task for anyone, Newsted soon proved his mettle, subsequently becoming the band’s longest-serving bass player.

A respected musician in his own right, both before and since Metallica, Newsted garnered acclaim with Flotsam & Jetsam and Voivod, as well as his more recent project, Newsted.

But it’s the nearly inaudible bass tracks on Metallica’s 1988 … And Justice For All that have gotten a fair share of bass fans – and others – rankled, arguing that the final mix didn’t do Newsted, well, justice.

Steve Thompson says he has first-hand knowledge of the reason.  The Grammy-winning producer/arranger/mixer (John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Madonna) says Lars Ulrich wanted it that way so the bass wouldn’t cover up his drum parts.

“Lars knew exactly the sound and the parameters of everything he wanted on his drums,” Thompson told Ultimate Guitar in a recent interview.  “We had to get the drum sound up the way he had it. I wasn’t a fan of it. So now he goes, ‘See the bass guitar?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, great part, man. He killed it.’ He said, ‘I want you to bring down the bass where you can barely, audibly hear it in the mix.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding. Right?’”  I turned around and looked at [James] Hetfield and said, ‘He’s serious?’ It just blew me away.”

To this day, Thompson regrets not being allowed to mix it the way he wanted, commenting that “the bass was great; it was perfect.”  But, alas, the powers that be wanted something different.  “I think they were looking for a more garagey-type sound without bass,” has says.  “I wanted to take ‘Master of Puppets’ and blow that away. That was my sonic direction for … And Justice For All.”

Looking back on the incident, Newsted seems to be taking it in stride.  “There are so many years of water under the bridge with that and I can now see it for what it is,” he told Metal Exiles in a 2013 interview. “I used to be pissed about it back then but that was a long time ago but the records I have made since then have had some ugly bass parts all over the place on them.”

Thompson, however, seems a little less forgiving, recalling a conversation he had with Ulrich at Metallica’s 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  “I’m sitting with Lars. He goes, ‘Hey, what happened to the bass in … Justice?’  I wanted to cold cock him right there.”


...And Justice For All is available here

Jon von Boehm

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1 Comment

  • Go to YouTube and search for “And Justice for Jason” to hear mixes with the bass added back in.


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